Equestrianism: Bluebird grounded as Whitaker proves that timing is the essence of victory

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The Independent Online
JOHN POPELY tried his best to persuade Bluebird to rise to the occasion in the Volvo World Cup at the Olympia International Showjumping Championship yesterday, but in the end it was Michael Whitaker who thrilled the capacity crowd, writes Mary Gordon Watson.

Jumping last on Everest Two Step, he won with a brilliantly judged round. He has finished second three times in this competition, but finally conditions were in his favour. Only three of the nine who survived the first round were able to clear the jump-off course. Whitaker confessed to having been nervous. It never showed. Neither did his German-bred partner sense it. 'He jumped unbelievably,' his rider said, the highest praise from a Whitaker.

Two Step can get too excited and the trick was to get him settled without overdoing it. A typically brave manoeuvre between the last two jumps clinched the prize when Whitaker went for five strides instead of the six taken by the leader, Germany's Dirk Hafemeister, on PS Priamos.

Two Step will be rested for three months, but the win put Whitaker second behind the Dutchman Jos Lansink in the Volvo World Cup league. The next round is in Brussels, where Whitaker will probably ride Everest Midnight Madness.

Whitaker's unstoppable form continued as he went on to win the Modern Security Systems Stakes with Everest Lifestyle - his sixth success. He clocked 42.06sec to leave Germany's Franke Sloothaak second on San Patrignano Mister, with John Whitaker third on Everest Bikker.

(Photograph omitted)